Before and After Katrina

18 08 2015

Before and after Katrina is how we mark time down here in south Louisiana. There’s been other storms since then, but 10 years later, if someone talks about THE storm, you know they’re talking about Katrina. It’s the event that changed our lives forever. What makes my story somewhat unique is that it was during this dark, stormy time that I experienced the best of humankind.

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As the storm approached the bigger event in my life was that my husband had moved out the week before. I would be weathering the storm without him with my then 15-year-old daughter. I don’t remember being worried; I’d been through hurricanes before and knew the drill. Baton Rouge is far enough inland that it’s where people evacuate. The next morning the storm had barely impacted us and I went back to work.

Early that morning, even New Orleans appeared to have dodged the bullet. The storm had not hit NOLA with full impact. Mississippi was a whole other story. By mid-morning, there was breaking news. The levees were breached and New Orleans was filling up with water like the geographic bowl it was. My work friend and I seemed to be the only ones in our office aware of the seismic shift that had just happened to our world. Our boss was more concerned about ad deadlines and couldn’t grasp that the nightmare everyone knew would someday happen, was upon us.

The hours, days and weeks that followed have now become a blur. It would be days or weeks before we could contact our friends or family in the drowned city 90 miles away. What we did know was that Baton Rouge instantly doubled in size. The streets were completely clogged with evacuees, the grocery shelves were empty and Baton Rouge welcomed friends, family and strangers into their homes for weeks and even months.

I work in marketing at Woman’s, a specialty hospital and the largest OB hospital in the region. When they evacuated the NOLA hospitals tiniest, most vulnerable babies and the moms who had just delivered, or were still in labor, they helicoptered them to Woman’s. This is when husbands were separated from their wives, mothers from their babies, and parents from their children.

Woman’s was where these families were eventually reunited. The world media descended on us because we were the happy ending story in a region filled with tragedy. Patients arrived in their hospital gowns; families arrived with only their flood-soaked clothes, desperately looking for their wives, moms and babies.

Those of us not involved in direct patient care did whatever job was needed. The staff went home and cleaned out closets to bring clothes to our patients and families in need. I was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader. I volunteered the troop, who was still out of school, and they gladly came to help. The Scouts sorted and organized the mountains of donated clothes that arrived crammed in plastic garbage bags. They collected the clothes orders from the nurses and delivered the needed clothes. These teen girls shopping skills proved invaluable as they set up this “Clothes Store” housed in the hospital’s medical library. We heard first-hand accounts the horrors of what had happened as the clothes were received with tears, hugs and gratitude. We all did a lot of growing up.

We heard about the nurse who had learned that one of her patient’s had finally located her young son who had been put on a bus and sent to Houston. This nurse drove all night to Houston (5-hours away) to bring this son back to his mom. This was the kind of story I was experiencing amidst the stories of death, gunfire, drowning, looting and fear that filled the news.

It would be months later before I drove down to see the devastation first hand. It was like entering a war zone. Mile upon mile of devastation, and empty buildings, and no people on street after street. The black cloud of depression hung over the area for years.

It’s now been a decade.

I was recently visiting with a dear friend whose beautiful home overlooks Lake Pontchartrain. It received storm damage, but remained livable. She said she has no memories of the 5 years post Katrina. She took an early retirement from working in the criminal justice system. Her stories are the opposite of mine. She did not see the best of human behavior. I’m sure this was an unspoken factor in her taking an early retirement.

New Orleans has a revived spirit. Young entrepreneurs flooded the city post-storm and brought their youthful energy to this old town. Many stayed and made it their home. That depressed cloud is now gone. It’s still a city that is rebuilding; there’s still too many impoverished, too much crime, and really, really bad roads. But it’s jazzy, gritty, spirit is once again alive and well.

Baton Rouge no longer feels like the country town it once was. It has a thriving downtown and sprawling suburbs. Like New Orleans it’s now a city that has too many impoverished, too much crime and really bad traffic. But there’s a creative spirit in the air that extends beyond LSU football season.

The storm forced Woman’s Hospital to move up their expansion plans. When Baton Rouge instantly grew, so did the needs of the community. Our brand spanking new hospital is now 3 years old. Whenever I hear a helicopter, I flash back to those Katrina days. There was the constant sound of helicopters overhead. Helicopters still land at our new helipad bringing moms and frail babies, but these patients aren’t desperate and lost from their families.

That Scout troop stayed together through High School and took a trip to Italy together their Senior year. I’ve now been divorced for a decade. I’ve built a new life with my wonderful sweetie, Steve. My daughter’s dad and I sat by each other and watched with pride when our baby girl graduated from LSU a few years ago. We’ll all have dinner together when she flies in from Chicago for a visit.

Katrina…an epic milestone to remember. It’s important to celebrate progress and to mourn what is gone forever. It’s important to look back and see how far we’ve all come. God bless us all.

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Do Little Things with Great Love

2 02 2015

1ooo Voices for Compassion is a group I recently joined. 1000voicesA bunch of writers plan to write about compassion and caring to help make the world a better place. Little did I know when I signed up that it would be me writing about being compassion’s recipient.

compassion

My Mom was just accepted into hospice care. In the last two months my 86-year-old Mom’s mind has become as frail and fragile as her body. She lives in a nursing home and is well cared for. Hospice will provide another level of care. She’s been a drama queen and southern belle—a dangerous combination—who’s been feisty and smart, had a great sassy sense of style, and a wicked sense of humor. She now drifts in and out of lucid moments. In her hallucinations she is powerful, in charge, directing unseen people and telling them what to do. Her phone had to be unplugged last week because she called 911 from her bedside phone and told them she was being held hostage. I understand that in a way she is being held hostage by a body and mind that won’t act like she wants it to.

Morning
I was in the middle of an intensely busy workday when I got the call that Mom’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I work for a woman’s specialty hospital; it is a compassionate place not only for patients, but also for employees. I was told to go be with my mother. I’m grateful that I work for an organization that at its very core understands the importance of family.

I was expecting a quiet day spent at Mom’s bedside. I knew what she needed most was my presence. What was unexpected was the flood of love and compassion that washed over both of us throughout the day. Not only did family come to visit, but also mom’s nurses, aides, social workers, administrators, and even the beautician came by to check on her. I got a tight hug from everyone whose life has been touched by Mom and they wanted to check on me too. I’m use to being the strong one and the decision maker. The concern for me left me tearful. I knew that I was being sent divine gifts and I embraced my tears and vulnerability with every hug I received.

Afternoon
I met with hospice after Mom’s nurses suggested a consult. The hospice nurse spent time going over the details of what hospice care is. I’ve always heard great things about hospice, but I was astounded to learn how much they also care for the patient’s family. I did not know they were there for me as well as my parent. The two nurses I met were the embodiment of warmth and compassion, even their voices were gentle and calming. They treated me as tenderly with their questions as they treated Mom when they examined her.

Evening
My daughter and her cat were boomeranging back home from living across town during all this. She plans to save her money and take off to follow her dreams in a few months. Between transporting carloads of stuff from apartment to home, she would stop to check on her Nana and me. We are both only children and both have close mother/daughter bonds. We have both been able to tell my mom how much we love her. Nothing has been left unsaid.

My daughter and I both realize that the next few months will be a special time for three generations to connect as we all transition to new chapters in our different, yet connected journeys.

By the end of the day, I knew that the time for my mom’s exit had not come. Mom was center stage yet again, surrounded by an audience telling her how much they loved her. She is not yet ready to leave the stage.

The Following Day
Mother Teresa said, ‘’do little things with great love.” Mom is feeling stronger and is more lucid today. She loves when I write about her on my blog. She takes great delight in hearing her own wild woman stories and she loves everyone’s comments. I’m going to read to her the stories of her life. It’s a small thing, but it’ll be done with great love.

Mothers and daughters, our maternal lineage

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

More Mom Stories
Wild Woman
Going Blond
A Mother Moment
Maw Maw’s Naked Lady Bowls
The Sandwich Generation

Today many writers, videographers and artists have created their own stories of compassion and are using #1000Speak to spread the word. You also can click on the link here and read what others have to say. 





How Breast Cancer Awareness Month led to a Thankful November

21 11 2014

This post is part of a blog hop by the amazing women of Midlife Boulevard. A blog hop is when a group of bloggers write on the same topic. This month’s topic is What I’m Thankful For. You can find the link to the other blogs at the end of this story. 

I think of my life as a creative journey and I recently came upon an intersection that I had not foreseen. October was breast cancer awareness month. I’m keenly aware of this because it’s my job to help promote it. I work for a woman’s specialty hospital in marketing.

While working on an ad campaign for mammography, a lump was found during my annual mammogram. I’m also working on the Cancer Annual Report and this year’s focus is breast cancer. I became the patient I was creating ads for and a possible statistic in the technical report that I help to design. When I got a call after my mammogram from the head of Imaging, I knew that she wasn’t calling me about advertising.

This year’s Thanksgiving card. Woman’s is one of the largest OB hospitals in the country and is known locally as the Birthplace of Baton Rouge.

This year’s Thanksgiving card. Woman’s is one of the largest OB hospitals in the country and is known locally as the Birthplace of Baton Rouge.

November is a month when we give thanks. While designing Woman’s Thanksgiving card, I didn’t yet know that I would be so personally thankful for the organization I work for. From the beginning, I was told that there was a 90% chance the lump was benign. I listened to the experts and had the biopsy to prove that I wasn’t in the 10% category. Because of their kind and professional assurances, I knew that I was going to be OK. This is why you get those yearly mammograms, to stop cancer early.

The only thing I remember coming out of the fog of anesthesia was the direction to not do any housework and no heavy lifting. I also remember telling my nurse/friend that we needed to go out for bloody marys. I’m sticking with the no housework rule and still need to get that drink with my friend.

I’m fine, no cancer.

During this time, I worked on the ad campaign to tell the public about the new 3D mammography technology that Woman’s now has. Just as I was told to do no heavy lifting, the marketing team worked together and the creative effort was shared. No one had to do the heavy lifting alone. This campaign actually launched an explosion of creative energy within the team. This team has all been touched in some way by breast cancer and I’m not the only one in the group who has had a biopsy. There was a sincere enthusiasm on how best to tell the public about the new technology.

The creative approach we chose to use to explain 3D mammography is origami. Traditional mammograms give a 2D image, like a flat piece of paper. The 3D technology is dimensional. It is like the folded origami. We chose to use the crane as our model, this origami bird is also the symbol of good luck. The campaign launches during this month of Thanksgiving.

Below is the campaign the Marketing team created. If you want to learn about the new 3D technology, just click. 

Campaign billboard

outdoor blog

Campaign print ad

3Dad blog

Campaign web banner

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I say a daily prayer to be given the wisdom to see the gifts the universe sends me. I was given the gift of living Woman’s mission: to improve the health of women and infants. That mission includes my own health.

To all the women and men I work with day after day and to the community we serve, I am thankful.

Shout out to the marketing team: Lynne, Bridget, Margaret, Rachel, Laurel, Tracie, Brian, Amiee and Dana. And to my sweetie, Steve, who held my hand and took care of me during it all.

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Click here to read to the other stories in the blog hop.





An Olympian Task

12 08 2012

Woman’s Hospital 1968

Woman’s Hospital has just completed an Olympic-size event. Woman’s built and moved into a brand new facility 6 miles down the track. The move happened during the Olympics and the parallels were strong. The years of prep, especially the last four years, hard work, pushing yourself, setbacks and finally making it to the finish line. I’m part of the marketing team and my main job has been about the branding of it all. But there are so many details about something this vast that it is remarkable that it happened as smoothly as it did. It feels great to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

Four Years Ago

Four years ago marketing did a logo inventory

Marketing started four years ago to refresh our brand. Our brand had become diluted over the years. Imagine our department was an ad agency and every other department was our client. It required a shift in focus and to convince our clients that the public saw us as one entity. We created brand guidelines and started shifting to our new look for every job/campaign/patient handout and on and on.  Woman’s had to reprint everything because of the move.   Our refreshed look is now accepted internally and recognized by the public externally. The biggest logo change was to become just Woman’s, which is what the hospital was already called in the community. Our corporate colors were updated from 80’s mauve and gray to magenta and black. Any time you see magenta these days in the Baton Rouge market, you know it’s for Woman’s.   In a rather conservative healthcare market, magenta is a bold marketing move.

Old logo and new refreshed logo

Outdoor campaign

We partnered with MESH to help with the advertising connected with the move. An outdoor campaign was created that has dominated the market for nearly a year. And Digital FX was added to the team to create a commercial that reflected who Woman’s is and not just be about looking at a new shiny facility. Woman’s really is a warm and fuzzy place. It’s about to pass the 300,000 marker for babies born since it’s 1968 opening, we truly are the Birthplace of Baton Rouge.

Requiring Different Strengths

Everyone in the organization has done different things and done whatever was needed to get the job done. There were things we didn’t know that we needed to know. Someone had to make the decision what caliber of bulletproof glass to use in the pharmacy (a scary realization). And that on move day, after each patient transfer, each ambulance had to be sterilized.

Mock move simulations with complicated patient stories were created to test all systems. When staff was asked to be actors for the roles, I said, “Sure.”   They didn’t tell me that they were making me a 475 lb. bariatric patient!  My actor  “husband” was a nurse’s 16-year-old son (who was drafted as he was home with nothing to do). As admitting was checking me in, I told them I was a big ole cougar!

I also signed up for the labor pool to move equipment. The real movers kept asking me why I was there because I’m so obviously not a manual laborer. But I rolled equipment from the loading dock to the department that it belonged to and even sanitized the wheels of equipment before it was wheeled into sterilized areas.

The Big Event

Ambulances staged and ready for the move

Interviewing patients and documenting move day

We hired an award-winning, cinematographer with years of experience to help us document the event. YES, we hired my fella, Steve (and it was great to learn how well we work together).  I was the interviewer and interviewed patients and staff. We had been practicing the actual move for months and it went off without a hitch. The patients, who were our top concern, came in with big smiles on their faces and there was a real excitement and energy in the air. Patients and staff were all aware of being a part of something historic.

Like a gymnast, I fell too

The day after the move, we had a ribbon tying, That’s right, not a ribbon cutting, a tying to symbolize bringing the community together. The only glitch was me falling down bringing some VIPs to get their photo taken. Yea, can’t have a big event without me falling down. (My falling down at ADDYs was months ago).

The New Woman’s

The Finish Line

Team Woman’s crossed the finish line in top form and it did feel like winning the gold. It’s time to start thinking about that next Olympian goal. But for now, I see a drink with an umbrella in my immediate future.